Freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser formally launched his campaign for U.S. Senate on Monday. It was quite an inauspicious start for the half-term lawmaker from Morrison.
As Peter Marcus reports for the Durango Herald, Keyser’s campaign wasn’t even a few hours old before Keyser ran into trouble over his own words:
ProgressNow Colorado on Monday filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for the Air Force, alleging that Keyser violated Air Force rules by engaging in politics while on active duty.
Keyser is a major in the Air Force Reserve.
ProgressNow highlighted a Dec. 10 report by The Colorado Statesman, which interviewed Keyser regarding his likely candidacy. Keyser told The Statesman, “right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”
The article – citing an unnamed source – also noted that Keyser attended a luncheon on a day off from military duties, where he received $3 million in commitments to back his campaign.
The Judge Advocate General’s office had not received the complaint as of Monday afternoon. Generally, such complaints are handled through an internal investigation through the accused’s command post. The Inspector General of the Air Force could also investigate.
The National Journal was among the media outlets to pick up on the Herald story. Keyser supporters were quick to try to dismiss the complaint as partisan politics, but Keyser has only himself to blame for his inexplicable statements to the Colorado Statesman last month. Take a closer look at Keyser’s comments from the Dec. 10th Statesman story [all emphasis is ours]:
“I’m strongly considering it,” Keyser said in an interview with The Colorado Statesman this week. “Right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”
Keyser, who holds the rank of major in the Air Force Reserve, has been deployed on a training mission in Florida this month as part of a mission to combat terrorist and transnational criminal networks in Central and South America, a spokesman said. He returns to Colorado next week.
“There’s not a campaign yet,” Keyser. “But as I spend a few weeks serving in the military, I think now more than ever, our nation is at a crossroads and the threats we face are enormous. This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history.”…
…Following a recent visit to Washington, D.C., where Keyser attended the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum luncheon last week as an invited guest on a day off from his duties, he received $3 million in commitments of soft money to back his campaign, said a source familiar with the matter.
If you’re scoring at home, you can mark this down as an “unforced error” by Keyser.
The Keyser Senate campaign is clearly intending to focus on his military background as a primary selling point, but Keyser really stuck both feet in his mouth with his comments to the Statesman. This wasn’t just a one-off thing, either; Keyser talks about “serving our country in uniform” in the same breath as a potential Senate bid, and he does so in two separate quotations.
The U.S. Military has specific rules about combining politics with military service. It is too early to tell if Keyser’s words will lead to a formal investigation by the Air Force or Department of Defense, but regardless of the outcome, it’s important to repeat that Keyser is being tripped up by his own words here. This was a completely avoidable and unnecessary mistake by someone who will need to defend himself against Republican critics who worry that Keyser is too inexperienced for such a big leap in elected office.
This isn’t the first time that Keyser has made a weird, unforced political error, either. In October 2013, when Keyser was first running for his state House seat, he falsely alleged that there was a problem with Colorado’s voting system because he received two ballots instead of one. Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, a Republican, immediately noticed that Keyser’s “second ballot” was not a duplicate, but a separate ballot for a special taxation district election related to property Keyser owned outside of Jefferson County. Go back and read the story before you try to argue that this was an innocent mistake by Keyser and not an intentional lie.
Keyser is going to need to run a tight campaign if he hopes to defeat state Sen. Tim Neville in a Republican Primary in June. These are the kind of boneheaded moves that will only add to the perception that Neville is unbeatable with GOP voters.